South Lake Tahoe, Ca (AP) — An illegal campfire caused the inferno that burned more than 200 homes and charred 3,100 acres south of Lake Tahoe, the U.S. Forest Service said.
The fire was built in a campfire-restricted area, but there was no evidence it was deliberately set to spark the devastating wildfire that has displaced about 3,500 people, said Donna Deaton, an investigator for the U.S. Forest Service, at a town hall meeting Friday night.
Deaton said the fire was built about a quarter-mile south of Seneca Pond, a popular recreation area south of Lake Tahoe. There are no suspects, she said.
Residents who will be allowed to return to their burned-out streets at 8 a.m. Saturday did not seem surprised by the news. “Apparently kids hang out there,” said Donna Barker, a 21-year resident of Tahoe Keys who evacuated on Tuesday, although her home was spared. “I don´t think people think. It´s a sad reality. We´ve been prepared for that for a long time.”
Because of tinder-dry conditions due to the lack snow over the winter, the U.S. Forest Service had banned all campfires, charcoal grills, smoking and fireworks throughout the Tahoe basin.
The fire´s cause was announced after a second straight day of mild winds, which allowed firefighters to surround the blaze. The fire was 80 percent contained Friday evening, according to U.S. Forest Service incident commander Rich Hawkins.